Take 'Em On Tony Canham

Tony Canham is one of City's best loved players of recent years. Discarded by Leeds for being too small, he possibly thought his chances of a career as a professional footballer were over until he came to City's attention when playing for Harrogate Railway Athletic. The basis of this page first appeared in the City programme during the 1994/5 season

Chris Dale, Phil Boyer, Dick Hewitt, Mick Mahon, Albert Johanneson, Tommy Henderson, Don Burluraux, Alan Murray, Dennis Wann, Richie Taylor, Ian Butler, Phil Taylor, Barry Lyons, Eric McMordie, Derek Downing, Gordon Staniforth, Chris Galvin, Ian McDonald, Jimmy Walsh, Billy McGhie, Alan Waldron, Bobby Hosker, John Bentham, Gary Ford, Brian Pollard, Alan Pearce, Gary Nicholson, John Lowey, Gary Himsworth, Gary Howlett, Wayne Hall and Kevin Dixon. These are just some of the players I have seen either wearing the number 11 shirt or patrolling the left wing in my first 30 years of watching York City.

Many of the names I had just about forgotten about. A few went onto greater things, but none gave me as much pleasure as Tony Canham, who in his 10th and testimonial season at Bootham Crescent is still giving me, and I'm sure many City supporters, as much pleasure as ever. He may not have quite as much pace as he once had, but still, put the ball on his foot and he is off. Defenders still find it as hard as ever to dispossess him, at the end of his runs, the shot can still be lethal.

Alternatively, who better to slip a slide rule pass through to Paul Barnes? That combination has been responsible for quite a few goals over the last 2 seasons.

It says much for Tony that he has held down the position for as long as he has. Before him, Denis Smith had tried several players on the left wing. None could make it their own. Several half hearted challengers to Tony have been beaten off. Indeed, while managers may have looked at strengthening the side, none of them has seriously looked at attempting to find someone better than Tony Canham.

One challenger, Wayne Hall had to settle for the left back shirt. Indeed, at times, Tony has challenged for the left back shirt himself. Always prepared to drop back to help his defender, Tony got to wear the number 3 shirt at Brentford in February 1993 after Wayne Hall fell ill before the game. He earned my vote as City's man of the match that day.

I know that when the time comes, and let's hope its not too soon, Tony will be a hard man to replace.

Tony must rank as one of our best ever signings. Having failed to make the grade, mainly through a lack of inches, as a junior with Leeds United, he'd returned to Harrogate to play for Railway Athletic.

Having played against City in a pre season friendly, Denis Smith asked him along to York where he impressed for the reserves on non contract (amateur) terms throughout the 1984/5 season. One day, he got a phone call from Smith, "Come and train with the first team tomorrow (Friday) and you'll play on Saturday". He did and made his debut against Brentford on March 2nd 1985 scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win. He signed his first professional contract that summer.

His long mazy runs thrilled the crowd and caused many anxious moments for opposing defences and keepers. A long run being finished off with a rasping shot. On 2 occasions, he was our top scorer for the season. Who will ever forget that long run at Anfield towards The Kop that ended in a goal in 1986 or the winner against Chelsea in The League Cup? Many years later, Canham recalled his goal at Anfield. Picking the ball up from a clearance following a Liverpool corner, he ran down the wing towards The Kop, cut inside, and felt he scuffed his shot and momentarily looked away in disappointment. It was only when he heard the roar from the near 7,000 City supporters at the other end of the ground that he realised he'd scored. Certainly, as one of those supporters, I felt he'd gone too far and it took me a couple of seconds to realise that he'd scored from a tight angle. Sadly, there is no TV coverage of either of City's Anfield cup replays. Equally, Tony can only recount how after the game, Craig Johnston said that Keith Walwyn's goal should never have been disallowed as he got the better of Bruce Grobbelaar and 2 Liverpool defenders to net what might have been a late City winner only for the referee to disallow it.

He was aware of some interest from bigger clubs throughout his time with City. He read Newcastle were interested and in 1987 went down to London to speak to Southend and Wimbledon. Checking estate agents in Wimbledon, he was put off by the house prices and turned down an offer from Bobby Gould who'd offered "a good contract as a squad player" with good bonuses for first team appearances. A year later Wimbledon won the FA Cup and City were relegated.

Incidentally, when researching this article, I discovered a few other interesting names to have filled the number 11 shirt. John MacPhail made his City debut at number 11, Keith Walwyn has worn it and Steve Tutill wore it on several occasions in the early days of his City career. When you mention City stars of the recent years, Tony Canham's name is always one of the first you name, alongside MacPhail and Walwyn.

After leaving City, having enjoyed a testimonial against Sunderland, Tony had a season with Hartlepool before returning to local football with Harrogate Railway Athletic for a couple of seasons. The Hartlepool move came about when Canham thinking he was too old to win another professional contract phoned Keith Houchen, then Hartlepool manager, to ask him to play in his testiomonial. Houchen was surprised to learn he was a free agent and offered him a contract. He believes his release from City was at the instigation of the board as Little had wanted to keep him.

Earlier, in April 1994, his testimonial season included a game between an ex York City side and a Leeds United XI at Tadcaster Albion's ground, City won with Alan Little and Ricky Sbragia both scoring a brace against a side that include Peter Lorimer and Bobby Collins.

Tony Canham's random thoughts:

  1. Best goal: A volley from the edge of the area into the top corner against Bolton at Bootham Crescent (May 1987). Goals against Liverpool and Chelsea are also fondly remembered
  2. Best opponent: Liverpol (1986), en masse, so quick in mind and thought
  3. Best manager: Denis Smith ("made you believe you could win every game") just beats John Ward ("you could tell he'd coached at a higher level, meticulous and superb tactically"), largely because Smith gave him his debut. He also thought highly of Alan Little who carried on Ward's good work and earned a lot of respect from all the players
  4. Best game: 4-2 win at Sunderland in the League Cup (August 1986)
  5. Best teammate: John MacPhail ("defender, leader and he could play")
  6. Walwyn or Barnes? Walwyn was a "great target man, strength, pace, good touch, could lay it off, to top it all, he was a great bloke" whilst Barnes was a "great finsher". Too close to call
  7. McCarthy or Ford? Another close call, each had their own qualities, pace or intelligence

Tony left City in 1995 having scored 57 goals in 347 league appearances, putting him in City's top 10 in the terms of appearances and top 20 in terms of goals. His City career spanned the successful Denis Smith side of the 1980s and our 1993 Wembley winning side where he scored one of the penalties in the shoot out. To this day, he can often be seen supporting City at Bootham Crescent.

In action Tony Canham (1)

In action Tony Canham (2)

Tony Canham on York Hospital Ball

Roker Report recalls Tony Canham's testimonial against Sunderland (29th July 1995).

City History

Bootham Crescent

TV: City In Action

City Interviews

City Books / Fanzines

Quiz Book / new frontiers

Vice Presidents Club

Our Branch / Photos

Branch News

Branch Awards / Facts

RENEW Membership

Email Us